It’s late, and I can’t think of much to write about these images. I will add that there’s a show opening today at Cooper Union, put together by all of us currently occupying the Presidents office, with the help of so many friends and supporters. Opening is 5-9pm and the show will run through June 15, open to the public from 12-7 Tues-Sat.
In response to Students for a Free Cooper Union’s ongoing occupation and reclamation of the School’s Presidential Office–
We invite you to submit work to a collaborative initiative imagining a world where ‘Free Education to All’ exists! This inaugural salon is open to any and all participants and will be part of an international traveling exhibition, paying tribute to Cooper Union’s 154 year historic mission of providing merit-based tuition-free education to all admitted students.
Exhibition Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 7pm Closed Sundays and Mondays **24/7 for Cooper Students/Faculty
Classes schedule: Tuesday to Friday Noon – 2pm Open Forum with Moderator 5pm – 7pm Lecture/ Classes 7pm – 8pm Community Picnic @ Peter Cooper Park Saturday 11am – 8pm Classes Indoor/ Outdoor activities
Free and open to the public!
Students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the Cooper Union are invited to submit works relating to Cooper’s hallmarked slogan “Free as Air and Water”, as coined by Peter Cooper’s son-in-law, Abram Hewitt at Cooper Union’s 1901 commencement speech.
Your work will be part of a salon-style group show on the reclaimed 7th floor of Cooper Union’s Foundation Building. The exhibit will encompassing the entirety of the 7th floor lobby, hallway, offices, and classrooms, to parallel to our efforts to reclaim the historic mission of Cooper Union. This exhibit will be free and open to public from May 28th to June 15th, and will also feature daily Open Forums and Free University classes reimaging new cooperative ways to restructure higher education. The presidential office, which has been occupied by students, will also be used as a reading room for a variety of media relevant to our struggle to keep Cooper free of tuition.
Following the event, all submitted material will be digitized as part of an interactive website, and be exhibited in June by Free Cooper Union in London (FCUUK) and other locations. All efforts of Free Cooper Union work to establish the foundation of a new chapter at our college and in society at large- one that will uphold the principles that allow education to be “as free as air and water”, in a long term sustainable, and socially conscious manner.
SUGGESTED CATEGORIES In an effort to make this exhibit accessible and widely inclusive to others engaging in the struggle to reclaim higher education we encourage submissions in any medium and format that work in constellation with the current crisis at Cooper.
1. Projects & Research Drawn from your current practice, student work, or social projects which in some way, whether personal or public, engage the imperative of free education in a broad way. Open to interpretation, submissions may include but are not limited to paintings, drawings, writing, proposals, sculpture, etc, that are informed by this pivotal moment in Cooper Union’s history.
2. Activist Artifacts Signs, posters, videos, twitter feeds, images, websites, barricades, banners, fliers, costumes, diagrams, and other material rooted in the higher education struggle against bloated administrations and boards, class, gender, and race marginalization, tuition and fee hikes, militarization and surveillance of campuses, privatization, socially unconscious investment and profiteering. Subversive use of media and technology is encouraged!
3. Chronicles & Documentation of the Crisis Written essays, letters, financial statistics, press releases, articles, or other documentation relating to the current crises facing student at the Cooper Union and other institutions.
4. Ways Forward Work in any medium that envisions a new future for the Cooper Union and education in general. Reimagine merit, administrative bodies, shared governance, new curriculum, no tuition, no debt!
DEADLINE Work must be submitted no later than 6:00 PM, Sunday May 26th 2013.
If submitting work digitally please email files less than 10 MB, or links to download/movie/websites to CooperUnionSOS@gmail.com, with the subject ‘SUBMISSION’ and your name. If you have digital work but do not wish to send it electronically please see the instructions below for how to drop off work in person.
We will also be accepting physical work to be dropped off on-site at the Foundation Building (7 East 7th St., NY, NY 10003) If you wish to drop off physical artwork, please email CooperUnionSOS@gmail.com with your availability. The Presidents’ office currently operates 24/7, accepting work anytime before the deadline.
Submissions should include the Submission Release attached to this document.
The Cooper Union Salon – Step Down is organized by Free Cooper Union
Since Wednesday morning students have been occupying the Office of the President on the 7th floor of The Cooper Union. It is no longer the Office of the President, but an Office for Over 100 Presidents from the Cooper Community. Students from across the schools of art, architecture, and engineering have been joined by faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of Cooper Union, in this action.
At noon on Thursday, May 9, students noticed an increased presence of private security personnel on campus without having received prior notice from the administration. These private security personnel were instructed to not talk to students or faculty; to not disclose their name, affiliation, or even who had hired them. They are typically NYPD-trained and have been found, as recently as May 3rd, to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Students were notified that the administration would issue a statement at 2:30pm on internal student judiciary consequences for the occupation. We heard nothing further from the administration until 5pm, at which time private security had established posts at both stairways throughout the building as well as inside elevators, which were being operated by key. With security positioned at exits throughout the building, the administration’s “Emergency Management Team” entered the presidents’ office and announced to students that they must leave the 7th floor within one hour or face disciplinary action, including dismissal and denial of degrees. The administration failed to issue this request in writing until 6:16pm, despite students being told they must exit the 7th floor before 6:30pm. The “Emergency Management Team” also instructed maintenance personnel to screw shut the doors to the 7th floor bathrooms and board up the water fountain in an attempt to deny students access to water and sanitation. Private security personnel blocked staircases and fire emergency exits, preventing students from entering and exiting the 7th floor.
After students and community members passed the private security, growing the occupation to over 100 members inside the president’s office, the “Emergency Management Team” was forced to reconsider the terms of their ultimatum. In the commotion, security were instructed to stand down by Vice President of Finance, TC Westcott. The 100+ students and faculty who had entered the President’s office sat down in unison after learning that NYPD had entered the building. The administration requested that the NYPD stand-down, and students remained in the President’s office. At 7:30pm TC Westcott informed students on the 7th floor that the original ultimatum to vacate the office had been “paused”.
This occupation is a nonviolent, community-based direct action and we intend to maintain it until we achieve our aforementioned goals. In a series of campus-wide emails, Cooper Union’s administration has continuously misinformed the community and general public on the status of the occupation while omitting their own failures in safety and communication. Most recently a campus notice has stated that students have “declined mediation.” Mediation has never officially been proposed, it was merely suggested in an impromptu conversation initiated last night by Dean of the Cooper Union School of Art, Saskia Bos, between Associate Dean of Yale School of Art, Sam Messer, and the occupying students. We refused to answer immediately to their request for a meeting on their terms, and have collectively agreed that a meeting will only take place in the Office of the Presidents with the entire body of occupying students present. We will collectively set the agenda for this meeting, will select spokespersons to speak with the administration, and appoint facilitation. Jamshed Bharucha must be physically present, and audio and video shall be streamed online and recorded. We have already invited President Bharucha to meet and speak with us several times since the occupation began but he has not yet made direct contact with the students.
We’re proud to have held this space for 55 hours and counting, and proud of the Cooper community for coming together across schools, roles, and generations to create an environment in which Bharucha cannot stay by successfully holding the physical space of the presidential and administrative offices in an open occupation. Jamshed Bharucha, step down!
May 9: Occupiers soft-lock in the presidents’ office upon hearing word that NYPD, who were later called off, had been escorted up to the second floor lobby.
May 10:Cooper Trustee and alumnus Michael Borkowsky stops by the occupation for a discussion with students and faculty.
May 10: A crowd of supporters gathers outside Cooper Union for an “art-in”
May 10: March to Bharucha’s Stuyvesant Street residence following a 6pm press conference.
May 10: Engineering professor Richard Stock signs statement of no confidence inside the occupied presidents’ office.
May 10: Secretary to the Board Lawrence Cacciatore and Director of Facilities Jody Grapes stand on the steps of Bharucha’s residence while protestors chant, “KEEP COOPER THE SCHOOL WE LOVE / NOT SOME FUCKING COUNTRY CLUB”.
May 10: Susan Howard from Charas speaking in front of Bharucha’s residence.
50+ students, faculty, and staff are maintaining a ‘sit-in’ inside Jamshed Bharucha’s office on the 7th floor of the Foundation Building of the Cooper Union. As students we have reclaimed the President’s office in response to the Administration and the Board of Trustees announcing the implementation of tuition for the incoming class of 2014- desecrating a 154 year old tradition of meritocracy and free education. We stand together with the extended Cooper community in opposition to this decision; we reaffirm all of the previous and future actions of our fellow students and allies.
Safety Statement/Statement of Purpose:
“This is a non-violent direct action, you are not being held in this room, you are free to exit when you please. Jamshed Bharucha, we are here today to deliver you a statement of No Confidence from the School of Art, we no longer recognize your presidency at Cooper as legitimate and in so doing we commit to re-claim this office in the interim until a suitable administrative alternative is secured.
Students for a Free Cooper Union meet on April 29th, 2013 in the blacked out lobby of the School of Architecture
On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 Mark Epstein, Chairman of Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees, announced that the incoming undergraduate class of 2014 will be charged $19,500 in tuition.
The New York Times, April 24th, 2013
News outlets have portrayed this announcement as a major blow to the two year struggle taken on by Cooper students, faculty, alumni, and staff to uphold 150 years of free education. Instead of feeling defeated, the Students for a Free Cooper Union find ourselves in a position of clarity. As of last Tuesday, there is no confusion regarding the administration’s intentions to expand into profit-driven education.
School of Architecture Lobby, April 28th (left) and April 29th (Right)
In the past week we’ve witnessed actions: from banner drops, to the architecture lobby blackout, to abundant window paintings, to the leak of a private board meeting’s transcript, and a city-wide student convergence set for May Day at Cooper Square. The fight for “Free Education to All” has not been lost.
Join us on May Day at 3pm as we stand with students CUNY Grad, Medgar Evers, NYU, the New School, Columbia and Barnard!
More photos and videos from the past week at Cooper Union:
March 6th: Today it was discovered by students that Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees moved their quarterly meeting — perhaps the most important meeting in the history of the college — to an undisclosed off-campus location without any announcement to the community. The full Board was set to meet today and announce their conclusions primarily on the issue of implementing various forms of tuition-based programs at this historically free institution. Over the past year-and-a-half there has been growing scrutiny of and opposition towards expansionist tuition-based programs by students, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader community.
It has been over three months since the last board meeting on December 5, 2012 and no “board report” has been publicly issued, despite being adopted as a means for “transparency” by the Office of the President. Over 450 community members have signed a petition for student representation on Cooper’s board, and precedent has been set by over 600 other colleges which have student trustees (including many other private institutions). At the the March 1st Trustee Forum, these propositions were evaded and publicly shot down on multiple occasions.
This afternoon, students from all three schools filled the grand staircase of the New Academic Building for a silent rally to affirm Cooper Union’s mission statement as a unified body, echo the faculty’s petition that “an injury to one is an injury to all“, and gather signatures for student representation on the Board.
We were here. Where was the Board?
A timeline of recent events leading up to today:
February 13th: The Executive Committee of Board of Trustees (whose membership remains undisclosed) announced that they would be deferring all early-decision applicants to the School of Art, citing “the absence of a sustainable model for the School of Art”. This both misconstrues the Art Faculty’s letter and jeopardizes earlier administrative claims that, “undergraduate students who begin college in September 2013 will not pay tuition during their four years at Cooper Union”.
February 20th: Current Cooper students and faculty stood together with “deferred” early-decision applicants at a rally and press conference (video) against the unprecedented top-down decision by the BOT Executive Committee to withhold the acceptance letters of students already selected by the School of Art faculty for admission.
March 1st: Several Trustees sat on a panel at a “Community Forum” in the Great Hall organized by the Cooper Union Alumni Association (video). It was suggested by Board Chairman Mark Epstein that the Art Faculty was coming around and expected to be submitting proposals in the near future. This sounded in stark contrast to a constructive series of meetings organized by the faculty of the whole to “reimagine Cooper Union within its means“. The Board spent the days leading up to the Trustee Forum and full Board meeting privately threatening the Art Faculty that there would be no incoming class for 2013 and that the closure of the School of Art would be initiated if the expansionist, tuition-based plans that the Faculty had been opposing were not submitted.
March 5th: In the interest of not allowing the School of Art to be closed, the faculty voted to submit their plans which they had previously stated were the result of a “subtly coercive” administrative charge. These plans include a pre-college program, an undergraduate summer program, and a Masters In Arts (M.A.) program. A memo from Jamshed Bharucha expresses that the administration is “pleased” to see the this “distinctive vision” moving forward, failing to disclose the ways in which the Board and administration have coerced the faculty both into designing and submitting these plans.
The following statement was issued directly to press by Claire McCarthy, Director of Public Affairs at Cooper Union, at 1:35 PM this afternoon—just 35 minutes into a rally organized by current students in support of “deferred” applicants to the School of Art. The rally, well-attended by students, alumni, faculty and the extended community, was intended to create a dedicated public space of redress for current Early Decision applicants recently denied access to their admission results by the Executive Committee of The Board of Trustees. It is reprehensible that the administration continues to preempt student actions by going directly to press, starting withJamshed Bharucha’s New York Times exclusive in October 2011. Students For a Free Cooper Union have taken McCarthy’s statement which, as usual, fails to address the real issues, and annotated it line-by-line:
“The simple, sobering fact is that The Cooper Union’s expenses exceed its revenues. Ignoring that won’t alter fundamental reality: the present financial model is unsustainable.”
It is not our belief that fundamental realities are being ignored, but that the Cooper Union community can tackle the financial crisis without sacrificing the college’s mission. Reality is not at odds with creativity.
“Despite having achieved $4 million in cost reductions, the weight of a long-standing structural deficit, intensified by the recession, has left the institution with a $12 million annual deficit—or 20% of its cash budget.”
Few in the Cooper community are impressed by “$4 million in cost reductions.” To put this figure in perspective, Bharucha’s salary alone is $750,000.
It’s also worth noting how the administration claims, as is convenient to them, that Cooper’s problems are “long-standing”, therefore, they cannot be held responsible.
“That is why the President asked the faculties of the School of Art, The Albert Nerken School of Engineering and the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture each to submit plans for generating sufficient revenue to lead to a sustainable future.”
As both Students for a Free Cooper Union and Art Student Council noted in their statements at today’s rally, the charge issued by Bharucha was poorly designed in its coupling of academic programs and revenue-generation.
The plans of the engineering and architecture schools have been submitted and are being reviewed by the Board of Trustees.
The Cooper community and the public have been told they are not allowed to know which trustees are on this committee, as well as any other of the Board’s committees, such as the Executive Committee which made the deferral decision on February 13th. The committee’s recommendations remain of unclear purpose: the School of Art does not stand as more defiant than the other schools, although it was penalized.
The Engineering Faculty also opposed revenue-generating proposals, tabling half of their Undergraduate Tuition Committee Report at the last minute. Additionally, the School of Architecture’s proposal was submitted with no numbers, stating, “the question of the possible introduction of a fee-based model for the school is not an academic one and thus the Faculty has no authority to participate in the process of deciding such matters.”
The art school prepared a plan, but a quorum of the school’s faculty, several days later, attached a post-script preventing the plan from being considered, saying the School of Art Faculty “opposes the very principle of generating revenue through tuition from academic programs,” including summer school or graduate programs. That course is unsustainable.
Revenue-generating proposals from the Engineering and Architecture schools—neither of which have received support of faculty, nor have generated any revenue thus far—are no more sustainable than the School of Art’s declaration. In their Graduate Tuition Committee Report, the Engineering Faculty note, “while there were many variables that affect revenue potential, the most significant was the number of students that attend. As with any proposal, it is difficult to estimate demand and represents risk.”
This is an existential crisis, not a plebiscite about tuition. It should also be obvious that little is served by staking out a high road that leads off a cliff.
In patronizing students and faculty—unbelievably enough—for “taking the high road,” the administration fails to acknowledge the reality of their failed charge. The School of Art Faculty worked for months with financial consultants (whom the administration paid in excess of a million dollars), and it was revealed that tuition-based programs will not sustain The Cooper Union financially. Thus, the administration is reduced to rhetorical tantrums, such as a line of despairing poetry “existential…plebiscite” and fear-mongering metaphor “a high road that leads off a cliff”. Let us set the facts straight: the Art Faculty, in conjunction with the faculties of Architecture and Engineering, has initiated a series of planning meetings intended to “reimagine Cooper Union within its means.”
Rather we must openly confront the challenges we face and by doing so—responsibly, inventively and cooperatively—preserve this great institution today and for generations to come.
Cooper Union’s administration has not demonstrated its ability to work in this manner. Last year’s “Reinvention Process” was completely illegitimate in its expectation of reaching a pre-determined result, and it has been denounced by faculty as both “subtly coercive” and “failed.”
Early admission applications to the art school will be considered as part of the general admission pool. We regret any inconvenience caused to these students.
Is McCarthy even authorized to state this or is it more bureaucratic drivel? Does this line represent the administration committing to accept a class of students to the School of Art and offer them a four-year scholarship from the expanded Regular Decision pool? If the Board was always planning to accept a class to the School of Art, what could possibly have been the purpose of deferring an entire round of Early Decision applicants two weeks after their acceptance letters were ready to be mailed? The administrations statements, actions, and rushed rebuttals to press all seem to contradict each other.
We remain committed to a sustainable institution that is true to the legacy of Peter Cooper—based on the highest standards of academic excellence and merit-based admission.
Note the lack of “full-scholarships,” and the administration’s inability to grasp the link between scholarships and merit. What kind of institution does the administration want to sustain?
Join Cooper Union students, faculty, alumni, extended community, and current applicants this Wednesday February 20, 2013 as we stand together for student rights!
Deferred Early Decision Applicant Press Conference
Wed. February 20, 2013, 1 pm
Cooper Union’s Foundation Building.
7 East 7th St., New York, NY
On Wednesday February 13th, two weeks after School of Art faculty submitted admissions results to be sent out to Early Decision applicants on schedule, an email was sent out by the Dean of Admissions stating simply that “As requested by our Board of Trustees, all early decision art applicants after being reviewed by our Art Admissions Committee were either deferred to be reviewed along with the rest of the regular decision pool or denied admission. This letter is to inform you that your application has been deferred.”
These applicants have gone above and beyond their due diligence in holding up their end of the application process and now it is time to demand accountability from the anonymous Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees! These applicants’ futures are not theirs to hold hostage indiscriminately!
This Fall applicants and their families were told on numerous occasions by administrators, the school’s official website, and admissions literature that the incoming class of 2017 would not be affected by the financial struggles plaguing the Cooper Union.
The rest of the Cooper community received a separate email from Jamshed Bharucha this past Wednesday in response to a recentpublic statement issued by the School of Art faculty in support of the college’s mission statement. This email outlined that “Pending the Board’s decisions in March about the future of the institution, and in the absence of a sustainable model for the School of Art, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has directed the administration to notify students seeking early admission to the School of Art that their applications will be considered as part of the art school’s general application pool.”
We can not stand by as the Board egregiously holds the futures of our incoming class hostage! These applicants are not collateral! Join us in responding to this unprecedented overstepping of administrative power this Wednesday February 20, 2013 at 1 pm in front of the Cooper Union’s Foundation Building. 7 East 7th St.
In December 2012, Students for a Free Cooper Union held a widely publicized and supportedone week lock-in within the school’s historic clock-tower to protest plans laid by the college’s administration and board of trustees. Upon exiting the Peter Cooper Suite we declared, “These are not merely antics, they are a shift in power…There is more work to be done.” Today, we’re excited to share a major milestone.
In the aftermath of our action, previously disenfranchised groups have stepped forward to voice their support of a free Cooper Union. Yesterday, February 1st, the Faculty of the School of Art issued an official statement condemning President Bharucha’s “subtly coercive” charge that faculty members create tuition-based programs at Cooper Union. To put their statement in context: the college is made up of just three schools (Art, Architecture, and Engineering), meaning that at this point in time 1/3 of Cooper Union’s faculty has voted to blockany tuition-related plans.
Faculty letter attached below:
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Steven Lam <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 5:20 PM Subject: From the Resident Faculty, The School of Art To: Steven Lam <email@example.com>, Saskia Bos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
TO: The School of Art, The Cooper Union FROM: Resident Faculty, The School of Art
1 February 2013 New York, NY
VOTE: On Tuesday, December 13, 2012 the Faculty of the School of Art voted to support the following statement to forward to Dean Bos that was prepared and voted on a week earlier by a quorum representing the resident faculty of the School of Art.
We, the undersigned, constituting a quorum of the resident faculty:
1. Hereby confirm the academic excellence of the proposals we developed this semester in response to your request. 2. Reaffirm our support of the Cooper Union Mission Statement as published in the catalog. 3. And in so doing, therefore, can neither propose nor vote on a motion that moves these proposals forward.
POSTSCRIPT: In the spirit of transparency the Faculty of the School of Art has attached this postscript to the above vote to explicate the process of our reasoning:
In September 2012, Dean Bos, in response to a mandate from President Bharucha, asked the resident faculty of the School of Art to work with her to develop academic solutions that address the current financial short fall. We entered this process in good faith as both faculty and patriots of The Cooper Union, forgiving what was considered from the outset to be a subtly coercive charge that threatened to impose undergraduate tuition and/or close one of the three Schools. This could have been an opportunity for imagining an academic collective vision of the institution to solve the pressing financial crisis rather than a set of prescribed assignments.
As the faculty developed proposals for satellite programs, we found ourselves continually reassessing the mandate of our charge as it impacted the historical mission of The Cooper Union. We have now come full circle, reaffirming our belief that The Cooper Union is not only the last citadel of the social reforms movement of the 19th century, but is in fact the vanguard of the 21st century — a beacon of access to free education. In this soul searching process our commitment to this fragile and precious mission was reinvigorated. As faculty we are honored to be a part of and continue to support this radical social project that rejects consumer-driven learning in favor of merit-based access to free education where ideas are free to circulate because they are first and foremost free of debt.
This is a moment of crisis in higher education nationwide. The cost of institutions of higher education is expanding at an alarming rate, while chasing elusive revenues from a decreasing population of increasingly burdened students and their families. In the context of a national prevailing tendency, the expansion on the scale proposed by the current process seems neither prudent nor sustainable. Expansion through the development of tuition dependent programs depreciates the historic identity of The Cooper Union and sacrifices the institution’s most important asset: the mission.
In this light, at this moment, and under these conditions the Faculty of The School of Art opposes the very principle of generating revenue through tuition from academic programs. Any solution to The Cooper Union’s current financial crisis that depends, even in part on tuition compromises and irreversibly damages the ideals of art, education, freedom, and citizenship that faculty, students, staff, and administrators have worked so hard to uphold and maintain, generation after generation. The Cooper Union’s exceptional mission deserves to be protected by equally exceptional efforts, solutions and gestures. The reinvention process currently under way to address institution’s grave financial situation clearly falls short of such exceptional gestures, efforts and solutions. The current process has failed to live up to, let alone expand, the creative and progressive spirit that animated the very creation of The Cooper Union.
The Faculty of The School of Art remains steadfastly committed to the concept of a union that supports the academic and civic foundation of The Cooper Union. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our Dean, the President, the Board of Trustees, as well as administrators, faculty, staff, and students across the institution to imagine and implement creative and exceptional solutions that are equal to the financial challenge, but more importantly, preserve the mission and progressive ideals of The Cooper Union.
We, The Students for a Free Cooper Union, reclaimed The Peter Cooper Suite on the top floor of this building one week ago on Monday, December 3rd at noon. We installed physical barricades to secure the space and issued demands directed to Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees and Jamshed Bharucha.
In the Peter Cooper Suite we spent our time writing, strategizing, talking to press, holding the space, and standing our ground. Eight floors below, our fellow students spent the week creating direct actions around campus. In the fight to preserve free education at Cooper Union, our peers have rallied alongside us to give advice and amplify our collective voice. As a unified community we brought local, national, and global attention to the longstanding principles of Cooper Union.
The problems at Cooper Union strike a nerve with millions of others struggling with student debt, administrative bloat, and expansionist agendas. We live in a world where massive student debt and the rising costs of higher education remain unchecked, where students are treated as customers and faculty as contracts. Cooper Union’s mission of free education affords equality and excellence and offers an alternative for a better future of higher education.
For over a century, the Cooper Union has sustained the mission of providing free education to all admitted students. After decades of financial mismanagement, the administration now seeks to implement tuition-based programs. Rather than dedicating themselves to the difficult task of maintaining the promise of free education — Jamshed Bharucha’s administration and the Board of Trustees have chosen to pass the consequences of financial and institutional mismanagement on to the shoulders of the college’s students, faculty, staff, alumni, and future generations. They’ve taken the easy way out.
Over the past week, Cooper Union’s community has recommitted themselves to the promise of free education. By refusing to address our demands, Jamshed Bharucha and the college’s board of trustees have publicly revealed themselves to be unfit to lead. In contrast, the students, faculty, and staff of Cooper Union have shown that they are engaged and willing to take on the challenge of keeping Cooper Union tuition-free. The future of this institution is in the hands of those who care most deeply for its mission.
The Students for a Free Cooper Union began our lock-in of the Peter Cooper Suite with a list of three demands. We’ve never counted on this administration to protect the college, but we gave them a chance. Now we feel empowered to meet these demands ourselves:
With regard to the mission. The students, faculty, staff, and alumni have publicly reaffirmed Cooper Union’s mission statement, which explicitly states that the college admits its students “solely on merit and awards full scholarships to all enrolled students.”
With regard to transparency. On Wednesday, December 5th, several students entered a meeting of Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees. They livestreamed and posted real-time, public minutes throughout the meeting. These actions mark the beginning of structural changes that will create open flows of information and truly democratic decision-making at Cooper Union.
Today we make a promise to the administration, the board of trustees, and general public: there will be student and faculty participation at the next board meeting, and the next board meeting, and the next. As we move forward we will implement a process by which board members may be removed through a vote from the Cooper Union community, comprised of students, faculty, alumni, and administrators.
And finally, with regard to leadership. Jamshed Bharucha’s absence and lack of direct communication over the past week has made it clear that he is a liability to this institution. We can declare without hesitation that Jamshed Bharucha is no longer our president.
These are not merely antics, they are a shift in power. Our only regret is that we didn’t lock-in sooner. There is more work to be done.